Riverside’s Agricultural Heritage and Riverside Public Utilities’ Water Rates are at a Major Crossroad
What’s happening? On March 29, 2018 the Board of Public Utilities (Board) established an Agricultural Water Rates Task Force, per City Council direction. The Task Force, composed of 16 community members and stakeholders, will work with Riverside Public Utilities (RPU) staff to develop rate alternative recommendations for the Board and City Council that address proposed WA-3 and WA-9 rate revisions.”
What is the purpose of the Task Force? The mission of the Agricultural Water Rates Task Force is to develop WA-3 and WA-9 rate recommendations for the Board of Public Utilities (Board) and City Council consideration by July 1, 2019. The Task Force shall endeavor to consider the fair and equitable distribution of water system costs for all Public Utilities water customers while promoting local agriculture and land use policies consistent with Proposition R, Measure C, California law and the GrowRIVERSIDE movement.
What are WA-3 and WA-9 rates? WA-3 Rates apply to RPU’s commercial agriculture service customers WA-9 Rates apply to Qualifying Groves inside the Arlington Heights Greenbelt
RPU recommended to eliminate these agricultural water rates and switch the agricultural water users to either RPU’s new residential (WA-1) or commercial (WA-6) water rates. RPU customers relying of these agricultural water rates would experience the greatest increase in water costs among all of RPU’s water customers. Many farmers and land owners raised concerns about their ability to continue to farm or water their orange groves if RPU’s rate proposal was approved. The City Council froze the agricultural water rates at current levels and directed RPU to form a Task Force to determine what the appropriate agricultural water rates should be.
Riverside once prospered greatly from its citrus heritage. Riverside was the richest city in the United States (in terms of income per capita) by 1895. The innovation to deliver water from the Upper Santa Ana River through the Gage Canal in the 1880’s, is still operating today. Only San Antonio, TX and lands around Santa Fe and Albuquerque, NM, have similar gravity fed irrigation systems. GrowRIVERSIDE is a multi-stakeholder initiative to restore and cultivate the City’s rich agricultural heritage. Growing and eating local fresh fruits and vegetables is a major food and health trend that is only going to get larger. The GrowRIVERSIDE initiative seeks to generate opportunities for community and economic development, advance public policy related to food and agriculture, and provide a venue for stakeholders to network.
Over the next 15 months, this Task Force will explore the issues around agriculture and water in Riverside. How should agricultural water rates be established? How can agricultural water rates comply with California’s laws and water policies? Does Riverside have sustainable sources of water to support agriculture? Can agricultural water rates stimulate the local economy and create new job opportunities?
This blog series will follow the work of the Task Force. It will help inform and promote a broad conversation about water, food, community and governance. Please become a part of the conversation. Participate and share your thoughts on water and agriculture in Riverside.